Spurs And Heat Tied Going Into Game 5 Of NBA Finals

Two days after the Spurs throttled the Heat by nearly 40 points, Miami responded with a rout of its own in San Antonio to tie up the NBA Finals at two games apiece. Even better news for the defending champions? The Big Three, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, finally look like the Big Three again. Audie Cornish talks to sportswriter Stefan Fatsis about that and the scourge of flopping.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, to last night's spectacular performance in San Antonio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPORTSCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Green, bad pass stolen by Wade. Gets in and throws it down. He avoided two Spurs after the steal. What a performance from Dwyane Wade.

CORNISH: Of course, we're talking about basketball, the NBA Finals, and it is suddenly anybody's series. The big three, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh lead the Miami Heat to a 109 to 93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. That evens things at two games apiece heading into Game 5 on Sunday. And sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now, as he does most Fridays.

Hey there, Stefan.

STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: So what made the Heat so great last night, especially after everyone was moaning about how bad they were a couple days earlier?

FATSIS: Well, the Heat are 6 and 0 in the playoffs after a loss. And I don't always buy the back to the wall, step up your game, desperation storylines but it sure looked like the Heat, particularly Lebron James, acknowledged the pressure and responded. And after being under or even unproductive for much of the series, and in the cases of Wade and Bosh, much of the playoffs, the big three combined for 85 points and 30 rebounds.

CORNISH: And this has been such a roller coaster. I mean, every game, it seems the loser can't possibly stand a chance going forward.

FATSIS: Yeah, the Spurs and the Heat have alternated wins. The last three of them have been blowouts and after each game, the collective wisdom has been that the loser's stars are too old, the Spurs' Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, or they're too hurt, Dwyane Wade and the Spurs' Tony Parker. The reality is that these are two great teams. Great teams find ways to adjust and readjust and that, plus the vagaries of injury and psychology and the bounce of the ball, affect the outcome of games. I wouldn't hazard a guess for the rest of the series.

CORNISH: And you mentioned injury, which makes me think of Dwyane Wade. Talk a little bit about him.

FATSIS: Well, Wade suffered a deep bone bruise on his right knee in March. Rest is the only sure treatment, but that hasn't been an option, so Wade has played 35 minutes a game in the playoffs with predictable results. Before last night, he was averaging just 13.6 points per game. His kneecap has been shifted and wrapped. He's used hot packs on it during games.

According to a story by SL Price in this week's Sports Illustrated, Wade also has had his mother, who is a recovered drug addict and a minister, place her hands on his knee and pray. You're fixing to have a supernatural healing on that knee, she told him. It sure looked like it happened last night.

CORNISH: All right. Well, on a less serious note, there were a couple of suspected cases of flopping in the game, so let's talk about flopping because the commentators always joke about it. But it's become a serious issue in the NBA.

FATSIS: Yeah, flopping is when a player exaggerates contact in an effort to draw a foul call from the referee. The NBA this past season imposed penalties for flopping, a warning for a first offense, followed by a $5,000 fine. One of the most passionate anti-floppers has been former coach Jeff Van Gundy, who's an analyst for ESPN and ABC. Here he is last night reacting to a dive by Chris Bosh after Bosh was nudged by Tim Duncan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPORTSCAST)

JEFF VAN GUNDY: That's a tough angle. I can't really see what they're calling on Duncan. That, to me, is just a post up and a flop. Chris Bosh, write your check to the NBA league office, $5,000 for that flop.

FATSIS: The NBA commissioner David Stern dropped the first offense warning for the playoffs and moved right to the fine. Last week, Stern endorsed ratcheting up the penalties. He said that $5,000 is pocket change to these guys and they have to make it tougher. And Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban gave $100,000 to biomechanics experts at Southern Methodist University to study flopping.

In scientific terms, how much force is needed to cause a legitimate loss of balance? The researchers think that the results could enhance video review of suspected flops. I think this is the perfect intersection of science and sports.

CORNISH: It is. I expect you to report back with that flop research, Stefan.

FATSIS: I will.

CORNISH: Stefan Fatsis joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. You can also hear him on Slate magazine's sports podcast Hang Up And Listen.

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